How a Hard of Hearing Person Hears
A hearing loss is complex. It varies from person to person depending on the degree and type of their hearing loss and personal adaptation.
Effective communication begins with understanding:
Better communication does not necessarily mean speaking louder. Hard of hearing people do not hear more softly; they hear differently.
A hearing aid amplifies sounds, which the hard of hearing person can, in some way, pick up by the ear. If the person cannot hear certain sounds, a hearing aid will not restore the ability to hear them.
Hearing is situational. You may hear in one situation and not in another. For example, a small room with two people is a better listening environment than a noisy cafeteria or gathering.
Many hard of hearing persons rely on the other speaker’s facial expressions and gestures to supplement what they hear.
Tips on Communication with a Hard of Hearing Person
Attract their attention: They must be ready to listen or key words at the beginning of messages will be missed and the rest will be meaningless. They need time to change thoughts and focus on you. Use other beginnings such as names, ex: “Harry, about so-and-so” and then your message.
Move close and face them: Move closer to make your voice louder and clearer. Face them so they can “see” the word sounds on your lips as you talk. Also, your voice fades rapidly around corners or when your back is turned.
Speak slowly and distinctly: We hear and we understand. The hard of hearing often do not. They must combine uncertain hearing, body language and guesses into words, and then into meaningful thoughts – often one step at a time, a slow business. When words come too rapidly or are slurred and weak, systems overload and shut off and listening stops.
Wait or move closer when it’s noisy: Even people with normal hearing have trouble when it’s noisy.
Watch carefully as you speak. Stop whenever you see signs of uncertainty – something has been missed. Start again, watching to be sure you are understood. If this is not successful then rephrase your message as only 30% of speech can be read on the lips.
TIPS ON ONE-TO-ONE COMMUNICATION WITH A DEAF PERSON
Ø Look directly at the person while speaking. Even a slight turn of the head can obscure the Deaf person’s vision. Other distracting factors affecting communication include moustaches obscuring the lips and habits such as smoking, pencil-chewing, and putting hands in front of the face.
Ø Speak slowly and clearly; but exaggeration and overemphasis of words distort lip movements, making speechreading more difficult.
Ø It is important to have the Deaf person’s attention before speaking. Since Deaf people can’t hear the usual call to attention, they may need a tap on the shoulder, a wave of the hand, or other visual signals to gain attention.
Ø Pantomime, body language, and facial expression are important factors in communication. Be sure you use all of them.
Ø Try to maintain eye contact with the Deaf person. Eye contact helps convey the feeling of direct communication. If an interpreter is present, continue to talk directly to the Deaf person who can turn to the interpreter if the need arises.
Ø Try to re-phrase a thought rather than repeating the same words. Sometimes a group of lip movements is difficult to speechread. If the person doesn’t understand you, try to restate the sentence.
Ø Don’t be embarrassed about communicating via paper and pencil. Getting the message across is more important than the medium used.
Ø In communicating with a Deaf person it is a good idea to remember that intelligence, personality, age of onset of deaf ness, language background, listening skills, lipreading and speech abilities all vary with each Deaf person, just as the skills and personality of every person vary.
Ø Every Deaf person will communicate in a different way. Some will use speech only; some will use a combination of sign language, fingerspelling, and speech; some will write; some will use body language and facial expression to supplement their interaction.